Have you ever noticed when you're in a crunch to get out the door that the last 30 minutes before you are to leave fly by like a nano-second? It does with me. I can be going along at a good pace, having allowed plenty of time to do all the necessary things I have to do to be prepared and then in the last 30 minutes everything falls apart. Either I have to change clothes one more time due to indecision or spilling my coffee again or I get a phone call that I have to take or -- well, I think I'd be safe to say you know exactly what I'm talking about. Something inevitably happens to delay your departure at the time you planned. Case in point: Even though we begin with ample time to get my sweet little P off to the bus stop, we sometimes end up with: "Finish your breakfast or we'll be late! Brush your teeth -- do a good job but do it quickly! Show me just how fast you can put those socks and shoes on!" Thank goodness this is the exception and not the rule, but for some reason those last 30 minutes seem to evaporate into thin air.
You'll probably agree that we're heading into one of the busiest times of the year with holiday preparations and such. I simply cannot believe we're just three short weeks away till we celebrate Thanksgiving and officially head into the Christmas season. Of course, if you ever venture out into retail territory you know that Christmas has already officially been ushered in. Christmas trees and baubles and pretties abound and, as much as I've tried to resist the urge, I have finally given myself permission to look at Christmas decor and dream a little bit about what mine might look like this year. But with our house on the market, who knows if I'll even be here for Christmas? I might be spending Christmas in an extended-stay hotel like I did Easter a couple years back. For all the many reasons I am glad my eldest daughter is back in the Atlanta area, celebrating the holidays is one of the top ones. Because I know that no matter where we are (as in where we're hanging our hat at the moment), we are always welcome at our daughter's beautiful home and have the privilege of sharing in the new traditions she is making with her little family. It's one of my greatest blessings for which I'll be thankful on November 22nd.
We are now in the "last 30 minutes" of our #1892adventure. We are literally hours away from our real estate listing going live, and THERE IS STILL SO MUCH TO DO-----EEEEEK!
I sat down recently to compose a final punch-out list for the house, and it actually grows a bit with each passing day. It seems as though you can always think of something to do still -- one final tweak...one last correction...one little thing that will hopefully make everything picture-perfect. But I am one who knows only too well from experience that there is no such thing as perfection and, if you try to attain it, you will be a sad little person. Because there is always something that in your mind seems absolutely necessary, but is it really? So what if every little thing isn't perfect? Let's not deceive ourselves into thinking that others EVER see us as perfect. They don't. We all have our little dents and dings, but we're trying all the time to do better, be better, live better, and that's okay. Let's just be ourselves and let all those little dents and dings just hang out and become part of who we are. We're much more interesting that way anyway. If you're waiting till your house is perfect before you have friends over, don't. It'll never be perfect no matter how hard you try, and you'll miss out on one of life's greatest joys: Spending time with friends and family.
One of our last jobs to complete on the house has been giving the living/dining room fireplace some extra love. The ol' girl probably looked pretty good for 125 years old, but there were a few things we wanted to do to spruce her up. It's so interesting (thinking of perfection, that is), to see how people in the past felt about this fireplace. They weren't the least bit interested in how she looked but, as this was their only source of heat, how she worked. When warmth and air started to slip out of the crumbling mortar on the chimney, what did they do? They piled more mortar on to plug those holes and keep the heat in! Over the years, later folks decided that covering the old fireplaces would be the next best thing to them not being there (after central heating), and for many, many years they stood behind the walls. They were things of utility, not beauty. Having centralized heating was what those folks were proud of! But we have set these old sentinels free, and have given them the opportunity to shine once more and to be what they truly are...works of art...pieces of history...parts of past lives that deserve to be recognized for their roles in the last 125 years.
So now that we are in "the last 30 minutes" of this renovation, it's sometimes hard to believe it because it's been the hardest job we've ever worked on. There were days that seemed to last forever holding problems that at the moment had no solutions and where we fell into bed dog-tired at night. But one thing I know: Every job finally does get completed and you can look back in wonder at all you've been able to accomplish. I cannot let those last 30 minutes derail me trying to reach for unattainable perfection. I will just let this house stand for who she is...a 125-year-old hardworking gal who, like me, has her own unique imperfections.
And she is all the more beautiful for them.
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
- Thomas A. Edison
Around this time every year when the temperature finally breaks from the low nineties to the high seventies, I begin to believe that summer is (finally!) relenting and allowing autumn to take her place center stage. After all, she is the favorite actor in nature's display of seasonal wonders for most people. So also around this time I begin to diligently search for found objects that I can use in my displays throughout the season, until I've had enough of acorns and muted dryness and am more than ready to usher in the glitz and glamour of Christmas decor in all its glittery glory. God knew we'd only be able to stand four to six weeks of the stunning beauty autumn has to offer and the sadness we'd feel at her faded-out departure. You can't appreciate the beauty without the ugly of winter that follows fall.
But in my quest to do just that (find objects, that is), I've been almost totally unsuccessful in finding some pretty leaves. Collecting leaves in fall is one of my favorite things to do...kind of like collecting seashells on the beach. But as the trees in this part of the country have only begun to tempt us with their slowly changing chameleon-like attire, they are few and far between. I've even ventured a tad farther north to the land of Blue Ridge where I love to go every year, but alas there were none to be found there, either. There are myriad philosophies I've heard over the years as to why leaves change when they do and how vibrant they are from season to season. I've heard it has to do with the amount of rain we've had over the summer: if a lot of rain, the leaves will do this; if not enough rain, the leaves will do that. I've heard that it has everything to do with the length of days or whether or not you've had a frost. Do you want to know what I think? I think they decide to change whenever they're good and ready. And although I'm sure there is a scientific study out there that tells definitively without a doubt why leaves vary so greatly from one year to the next, please don't alert me to it. I prefer to remain in the dark and just let autumn surprise me each year with her finicky fanaticism. I've learned to take whatever she hands out and be grateful for it.
And you know me, in my head when I get to thinking about nature, I always seem to somehow correlate it to the plight of human beings.
We too can be moody and unpredictable, don't you think? Sometimes the very thing that brought us extreme happiness last month might fall short this month. Sometimes we can surprise people when they realize how we've changed over the years (or maybe not changed at all). Sometimes we refuse to change and want to stay that stubborn shade of humbug green that we've been wearing all summer long. But, as we know, change is inevitable in life and, no matter how much you might hate change OR love change, there is only so much one can do to bring it about or stop it from happening. It doesn't matter how hard you try sometimes, how much money you might have, how much you've prepared, or how many good decisions you've tried to make, life has a way of sending change your direction just like nature sends us fall every single year. And with it, we can embrace change or make ourselves miserable stuck in an endless cycle of stubborn rebellion. Kind of like my almost-two-year-old granddaughter when you ask her if she has a poopy, and she repeatedly says no but you can smell if from across the room. She doesn't yet have the insight to realize how much more comfortable she'll be if she'll only let Nana get her cleaned up. Change can totally be our friend.
As we take our final ascent into fall, I hope that you can embrace the changing seasons and the seasons of change you might be experiencing in your personal life. When change is not wanted, it can be really hard. Sometimes, when it's thrust upon us, we feel like we can't breathe. We might feel life may never be the same, and maybe it won't. But most times, if we take these moments in life and allow them to help us slow down and take that breath and wait patiently for the outcome, we'll be able to see exactly where those changes might take us, and even winter has its glories.
As for my foliage search? Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. I will not be taking any trips this season farther north than, well, Georgia, so you gotta do what you gotta do. Over the weekend, while at our local Target shopping center, I noticed that the small sugar maples in the parking lot have finally begun to have tinges of red at the top. Even they are late bloomers because I've seen those trees change as early as August before. I enlisted the hubs as my getaway driver, made sure the coast was clear, plucked a few sprigs off a tree, and took off. Yep, you heard me right; I flat-out stole them! But with the happiness they're bringing me right now on my kitchen window sill, I don't think anyone would deprive me of that little joy. And for the rest of my leaf-changing pleasures this season, I'll just have to wait for Mother Nature to do it in her own time. It might even be Thanksgiving before we see fall's true glory down here in Jawja. Unlike our Pacific Northwest friends who are unashamedly posting glorious images of fall foliage (stop bragging, you guys!), we do things a bit slower here in the south.
Happy fall, y'all!
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
- George Eliot
I have found in my years it's highly likely that any person at any given time will be in the midst of their present situation or job or endeavor, not really there in mind and soul, but actually living regretfully in the past or anxiously in the future. I, for one, have caught myself doing that time and time again and, as hard as it is, somehow I drag myself back into the present, trying fully to be "present in the present" before once again the past or the future begin to tug at me, threatening to judge me for what's come before or condemn me for the future I desire.
Have you ever been there? It's a giant tug-of-war in my life.
So what is the "present"? The present can be many things. It can be the hardest thing you've ever done. It can be pain and suffering. It can be a transitional period. It can be your happiest moment (even though you may or may not know it at the time). It can be a time of learning and growth. It can be a nightmare. It can be a fantasy. It might be everything you've ever dreamed of or everything you've always dreaded. But here's the thing about the present: It most surely will pass, at which time it will become the past and lead you into the future. But I've found, sometimes much to my disappointment (or to my exhilaration), the present usually passes as quickly as it comes, and then you're moving onto the next thing. Sometimes that's a blessed occurrence and other times you realize you were not in such a bad place after all.
Transition, for me, has been a given the last ten years of my life and now that I'm in my "senior" years (really?), I find myself longing for stability. For the first part of the last decade, I suffered with breast cancer. I was diagnosed in the late summer and found my autumn and winter months filled with chemotherapy sessions, surgeries, and the "present" situation of being the sickest I've ever been. There were days when I felt as though I was hanging in the middle, somewhere between life and death. That Christmas was the hardest Christmas of my life. With no energy to make the holiday a special family time, I was in the depths of a huge pity-party and literally (not meaning to) ran my family off where I sat alone for most of the day after Christmas, my faithful kitty at my side. Thankfully, he didn't so much mind my foul state of mind. But, as present situations do, that time passed (albeit very slowly), I got my strength back, and things pretty much returned to normal. Today, except for the ugly scars left and the uglier memories, it's hard to remember the actual pain and suffering. And even though it was probably the hardest time of my life, I look back on it now and realize how much I grew during that time. Today I believe I am a stronger person, and I owe a lot of that to my experience with breast cancer.
Since that time my life has truly changed in my activities from day to day. When the hubs and I re-did our first little house in Alabama, I had no idea that it would lead to buying and renovating houses and become a lifestyle for us. We have lived in most of the houses we've renovated and it's been hard at times. That scenario has included moving many times, living in apartments along the way, even an RV for a short period (remember that one?!), periods of moving furniture in and out of storage, and having long droughts of uncertainty. It definitely has had its moments of excitement but, as I've gotten older, transition is becoming less and less attractive to me, and now I find myself longing for a place I can call my permanent home, a place where I can remain until they take me out feet first, as they say.
But in and between these times of transition when I almost always encounter struggle and hardship, I have moments of epiphany where I inherently know deep down that there is a purpose for what I am experiencing at the present moment. Am I being groomed for something in the future? (maybe) Am I being punished for something in the past? (haha, just kidding) Am I just being taught another hard life lesson of patience? (probably) But I really try to take time to reflect on my present and see how it can make me a better, stronger person if I'll let it. I have learned over the years to say, "Yes, teach me. Show me, hard times, what I need for this moment in my life and how it can make me better." That is an absolute given, that if we allow changes, hardships and challenges in our lives to mold us, they will do that. But you know what it takes? LIVING IN THE PRESENT. Taking today and asking what it has to teach us. Looking for all the lessons today has to give. Looking for all the blessings today has to offer. Taking today and making it the most important time, more valuable for learning than the past and more satisfying than your greatest hopes for the future.
I don't know where you're living today. Maybe you're stuck in your past with regrets and memories that not only hurt, but haunt you as well. Maybe you're longing for a future that brings all the things you've ever dreamed of. But may I challenge you to live in the present to see what it has to offer? There is a lot of talk today on "being fully present." And even though I think that term is way overused, its connotation rings true. Our presence is asked for or maybe even required in so many situations, but is it our body only that is present or also our heart and soul and the giving of our entire self to that particular moment in time? Something to think about.
My present situation is kind of a limbo game right now, and I have never been very good at playing limbo. How those people get down so low in such a compromised position is beyond my range of motion. But I am in limbo now in my life, moving from one situation to the next, trying to soak up all the moment has for me. I'd be lying if I said it was easy. It's a constant battle, looking back on what I could've done differently and looking forward to what I perceive as so much better. Sometimes waiting -- no, always -- waiting is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
But if I let her, my friend "the present" will teach me great things. I just have to sit still and listen to her instruction. I also have to hold tightly to her, grasping with joy, thankful for this fleeting time, anxious to learn what she has to reveal, because we all know...she is here today, but will be gone tomorrow.
P.S. Those months I was going through treatment led me to writing...putting on paper my thoughts and experiences and realizing that writing is an outlet for me, whether it's chronicling our house renovations or just sharing my heart. Thank you for listening; I never take that for granted.
"You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."
-from the Book of Isaiah
Posted by CC
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